By on June 8, 2010

The National Academy of Science’s National Research Council has released a comprehensive report on fuel-saving technologies and their associated costs [full report available online here, summary in PDF format here], and it’s data-licious. Just about every currently-available (within the next five years) efficiency-improving technology was assessed, not just for efficiency gains, but for cost as well… but let’s wait on the cost part for just one moment. Above, you can see the study’s findings in regard to efficiency gain available through various near-term technologies, as applied to vehicles with 4, 6 and 8-cylinder engines. It should come as no surprise to find that conversion to Hybrids, diesels and dual-clutch or continuously-variable transmissions offer some of the greatest benefits… but what about those costs?

Well, will you look at that? All the silver bullets are expensive. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? The study’s presser summarizes:

Adopting the full combination of improved technologies in medium and large cars and pickup trucks with spark-ignition engines could reduce fuel consumption by 29 percent at an additional cost of $2,200 to the consumer.  Replacing spark-ignition engines with diesel engines and components would yield fuel savings of about 37 percent at an added cost of approximately $5,900 per vehicle, and replacing spark-ignition engines with hybrid engines and components would reduce fuel consumption by 43 percent at an increase of $6,000 per vehicle.

Meanwhile, don’t even think about think about camless valves, HCCI, “advanced diesels,” plug-in hybrids, diesel hybrids, EVs or hydrogen fuel cells. The report puts all of those technologies outside of the five-year window for this report, and notes that

some of these technologies will remain perennially 10 to 15 years out beyond a moving reference.

For now, the studying continues, as the NAS builds more sophisticated models around either real or theoretical “class defining vehicles” to help them understand how integrating these technologies can cause beneficial and harmful interactions. In the meantime, the report’s strongest conclusion is that EPA and CAFE abandon MPG in favor of gallons per 100 miles and improve testing procedures because certain technologies (probably start-stop systems, among others) do not register realistic energy savings. We can certainly agree with that much.

This report may have uncovered more questions than answers, but it’s an in-depth look at the options and trade-offs available to contemporary product planners. THe methodology, though imperfect, is well-explained. If fuel economy catches your attention, but pie-in-the-sky futuretech turns you off, this report is required reading.

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66 Comments on “The High Price Of High Fuel Efficiency...”


  • avatar

    Oh no! Not that… new technologies without scales of economy cost more! Who would have thought that?

    Is this a surprise? Yet somehow we are supposed to skip the development phase and just get to commodity hybrids…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s not a surprise, but I think it should serve as a wake-up call to people who don’t see hybrid powertrains as effective, or not very effective versus the other measures taken towards improving fuel economy.

      The first chart is a useful one: to make up the efficiency of something like Toyota and Ford’s HSD you’d need to combine an awful lot of other technologies in an equally-expensive package.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      …to make up the efficiency of something like Toyota and Ford’s HSD you’d need to combine an awful lot of other technologies in an equally-expensive package.

      Yeah, but at least then you’d still be driving a real car rather than an overgrown goddamned go-kart with a generator onboard.

      *crotchety old man cane wave*

  • avatar
    dwford

    So hybrids take 10+ years to pay for themselves in gas savings. This is news?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike999

      A Honda Insight looks like it will pay for it’s tech in 3 years Max.

      Again, is FORD pricing their car because most green buyers have higher incomes [ price gouging ],
      and is FORD really interested in getting this tech to a mass market? No.

      Hybrid pricing is about replacing the Kickback they get from Oil with a higher sticker price to the consumer?

      High Hybrid prices seem to be there to Placate the oil shareholders of the auto industry.

      Big Oil should be investing 50% of their Profits in Future Tech.
      They are nowhere near that level of investment.
      Who is BP’s biggest shareholder: JPMorgan.
      Wall Street is just yanking out as much profit as possible and saying FU to American Clean Energy, a Sustainable Future, and JOBS.

      This is FU Capitalism, where we allow these large multinationals to destroy this country.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      Why must a hybrid pay for itself ?

      For some people just the fact that they are consuming less of a dwindling natural resource is, like giving to charity, reward in itself.

    • 0 avatar
      bsoft

      I paid $13,000 for my 2007 Prius (45k miles on it), which is about $2k more than a comparable non-hybrid used car.

      I get about 46 MPG in the Prius with a mix of city and highway driving. In a conventional small car I would expect to get about 30MPG combined.

      At 12,000 miles per year, my Prius uses 261 gallons of gas and a conventional vehicle would have used 400 gallons. At $2.60 per gallon, the Prius saves $361 per year in gas.

      That means that the Prius pays for itself in about 5.5 years. Add the fact that the Prius is one of the most reliable vehicles on the road and you get a car that’s really quite cheap to run.

      The Prius also has features like the smart key system, push button ignition, back-up camera, and touch-screen MFD that you’re not going to find on many 2007-era vehicles under $15k.

      It’s not an exciting vehicle but it does hold 4 people comfortably, it does haul the crap that I need (especially with the seats down), and it’s easy on the wallet in terms of gas and maintenance. If I have to own it for 5.5 years to make up the difference, that’s fine because I intend on driving the crap out of the thing until it won’t go anymore. I fully expect that to be a long time away.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @dwford: That payback was the same when I was shopping 5 years ago, so instead of a Prius, I got an xB instead.

      @Mike999:
      “Wall Street is just yanking out as much profit as possible and saying FU to American Clean Energy, a Sustainable Future, and JOBS. This is FU Capitalism, where we allow these large multinationals to destroy this country.”
      –When Bush was in office, it was easier to blame the President and claim he was receiving some sort of kickback. Seriously, if you don’t like it, don’t buy the product. Complaining about ‘multinationals’ is like complaining about the salaries of MLB players after you’ve bought a game ticket.

      @sitting@home: Which ‘dwindling natural resource’ are you referring to? If it’s oil, the price would reflect it, just as the price of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT reflects its rarity. We’ve been ‘running out’ of oil for 40 years, but that dog doesn’t hunt.

    • 0 avatar
      Rusted Source

      bsoft, let’s just hope that you won’t need to buy a new battery pack in 5.5 years because then you’ll be behind the 8 ball again.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    hybrids (except luxury ones) don’t cost $ 6,000 more. Or are they saying a Prius without battery could be bought for $ 16,000?

    I see fuel benefits in hybrids and diesels, but CVTs? how are they more efficient, especially accounting for extra fuel spent going to the shop for (expensive) repairs.

    How many more tax dollars for studies like this?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      CVTs are like electronic fuel injection in the 80s. Some companies do it really well (Nissan), others spectacularly badly (GM, Honda). Don’t damn the whole technology on the grounds of one or two companies’ implementation.

      It’d be like saying diesel is a bad option because of the Olds 350 V8.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      CVTs are like electronic fuel injection in the 80s. Some companies do it really well (Nissan), others spectacularly badly (GM, Honda). Don’t damn the whole technology on the grounds of one or two companies’ implementation.

      Unless I am mistaken, the truth about Nissan’s – I mean Jatco’s – CVT is only beginning to come out.

      http://www.nissanassist.com/

    • 0 avatar
      Mike999

      Honda’s CVT has been fixed for many years now.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      I don’t know if I’d say Honda’s CVT has been fixed for “many” years just yet. The ’05 and earlier version was designed without a transmission oil filter (wtf Honda?!?). The ’06 was much better although that same year Honda also came out with a new and improved CVT oil (proprietary and available through the dealers) and 25,000~30,000 mile/3-year change interval (kinda frequent for a pokey 110hp grocery-getter). I know, I thought they were good enough improvements that I bought one of the first 2006 Civic Hybrids. By now enough of the ’06 and newer HCHs might be racking up enough mileage to know if these improvements worked.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Unless I am mistaken, the truth about Nissan’s – I mean Jatco’s – CVT is only beginning to come out.

      Jatco is more or less Nissan’s captive transmission supplier, much like Aisin is to Toyota. You can safely say the CVT’s are Nissan’s own.

      As for the warranty extension: that’s more to assuage nervous buyers than for any real problem with the transmission, much like Hyundai’s 10-year warranty is. I wish companies would formally extend warranty coverage for problem components, but such a thing doesn’t happen, or happens in an underhanded sort of way.

      Consumer Reports bears this out: Nissan’s transmissions show above-average, even in the Murano (save for 03) which was equipped with an early version. By comparison, have a look at any V6 automatic Honda from ~2000 to ~2004, or the pre-resedign Chrysler minivans if you want to see what epidemic transmission problems look like.

      I think what happens with CVTs is that reviewers, mechanics and enthusiasts, who are conservatives to a fault, don’t like them and want there to be problems. It’s true that they’re expensive to repair if they fail, but that’s largely because there’s not much to fail, save for the belt. Never mind that a failing automatic is hardly a cheap proposition, either.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      As for the warranty extension: that’s more to assuage nervous buyers than for any real problem

      That remains to be seen. The older models have well-documented problems, and the newer ones haven’t been around long enough to prove themselves yet.

      I have owned seven Nissans over the past 20 years. My last one was a 2004 Quest, a bona fide piece of junk that literally starting falling apart as soon as I got it home. It was every bit as bad as the blogs said it was, and Nissan extended the warranty for this reason… not for perception. The company does takes care of its customers, but (since Carlos Ghosn took the helm) it has not been building the most consistent products.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That remains to be seen. The older models have well-documented problems, and the newer ones haven’t been around long enough to prove themselves yet.

      What well-documented problems? Nissan’s CVT showed up in 2003 in the Murano, and every CVT-equipped Nissan including that car shows better-than-average transmission reliability, save for the Murano’s first year. As before, examples of cars with “well-documented” transmission problems would be any V6 Honda from 2000-2004, or any V6 Chrysler from before 2004.

      I’ll give on the Quest (which had a conventional AT), but the CVT, done right, is no less inherently reliable than a conventional automatic.

      Manufacturers don’t make public warranty extensions if they know they have an endemic, non-safety-related problem. They do secret warranties, TSBs and such instead.

    • 0 avatar
      mythicalprogrammer

      “Unless I am mistaken, the truth about Nissan’s – I mean Jatco’s – CVT is only beginning to come out. ”

      You’re totally mistaken. Unless you’re in a country where Nissan have just begun to offer CVT, Nissan have been offering CVT for a few years now. They also have an advance CVT that is driven by these cones to handle more torque. If I remember correctly their CVT are chain driven to handle more torque. I think they have the most advance CVT out there yet.

      Most people thinks the feel is rubber band like? I only have one car, c230 auto, and driven Altima Coupe CVT and I think the CVT is really smooth. I heard DSG is better though? GT-R have a getrag DSG.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    What cost for ‘replacing’ the Gulf of Mexico? What cost for maintaining our ever-present military ‘support’ to ensure the continued flow of oil to us? What cost losing the polar ice caps?

    Look, there is a valid debate on the merits of various technologies relative to their costs, but people, the writing is on the wall, and has been for decades…we must make massive improvements in efficiency related to the way we utilize/use fossil fuels NOW, not later…AND beginan alternative energy/fuels “Moon Mission” to, basically, help ensure our continued survival as a species. Yeah, it’s that serious…

    Anyone who cannot see this is about as wise as the long-dead dinosaurs whose “juice” we are addicted to… and EVERY cost listed above is nothing more than a mere pittance of the damages we will incur by our inaction.

    Those above costs/figures sound like a frigging BARGAIN to me…

    • 0 avatar
      Mike999

      Wall Street has learned, since Friedman, that there’s more [ Short Term ] money in Destroying Sustainability. As long as we allow Wall Street to steer US and Oil CEO’s, we will NOT get the investment we should have gotten in EV’s, Solar, Wind and Nuclear[ Lithium ] Reactors.

      Why build an empire when you can strip down and loot someone elses?

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Front-page news cliches, summary dismissal of dissenting views on the basis of intelligence, and CAPS-ON rants.

      Omigod, the Global Warmists are back…

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      stfdennis1 +100. Absolutely the truth. Like it or not, there are significant costs associated with burning fossil fuels. These costs are not part of the price at the pump. Even if you choose to bury your head in the sand regarding climate change, how about “run of the mill” pollution? How about the Gulf of Mexico? Asthma from diesel particulates? Or military costs associated with providing security in countries that hate us? Let’s not forget the big daddy of ‘em all and Faux News’ favorite topic, terrorism. Everything has a social cost; some just simply choose to ignore it. Factor in all the costs, and the price for efficiency start looking pretty good, despite what the “hide the decline” idiots have to say…

    • 0 avatar
      sfdennis1

      @ BrontasaurusDon1967

      Watch out for falling asteroids dude, your species’ time on the planet is limited…what pisses the rest of us off is your attempt to take the rest of us with you into extinction, via your stubborness and ignorance…

      Exxon Valdez, BP in the Gulf, oil money funding terrorist regimes, other oil money feeding corporate crimes/greed and the ‘buying’ of our government serving corporate interests rather than the best interests of the citizens, numerous toxic chemicals released in mass quantities into the environment, peak oil and the coming ‘oil wars’ and competition w/ India & China for the last drops of dinosaur juice…

      What more proof do you need? You oil-loving denialists honestly boogle the mind of any rational being. There is no case you can make which would justify us staying on our current course…

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      There is no proof that ‘fossil’ fuels actually come from crushed plants and animals. It is far more likely that they come from some natural chemistry in the earth itself.

      I’ve been listening to the ‘depleting resources’ cry since the early 70s. There is as much oil now as then. The proof is in the price of it. True rarity of oil will drive the price up, and consumption will naturally move to alternative fuels. That’s how free markets work.

      As long as the price of fuel stays low there is no shortage.

      And no, I’m not worried about the polar ice caps. If they disappear, they’ll return at the next ice age. In the meantime, that 350 ppm of CO2 is great plant food.

      I’m also not worried about the fact that every planet in the solar system is warming (including Pluto); it certainly isn’t all caused by Republicans and SUVs. Global warming is not just for Earthlings anymore, but the MSM doesn’t want you to know that.

      My concern with the technologies described in the article are: a)payback time, b) repair costs, c) effectiveness. The best things done for car pollution have been electronic fuel injection, the O2 sensor, and the catalytic converter.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @Mike999:
      “Why build an empire when you can strip down and loot someone elses?”

      Evidence, please, including a description of the cash flow. I hear this comment often – about American/British imperialism – but have yet to hear or see how it actually works. I thought we paid for our oil.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’ve been listening to the ‘depleting resources’ cry since the early 70s. There is as much oil now as then. The proof is in the price of it. True rarity of oil will drive the price up, and consumption will naturally move to alternative fuels. That’s how free markets work.

      There’s two problems with this: oil is getting harder to find, especially domestically.

      We’re down to extracting from technically problematic places like the Alberta Tar Sands, which is expensive and energy-intensive, and only commercially viable when oil gets more expensive with demand, or from politically unpalatable places like the middle east. The costs for doing this are currently heavily externalized, but they can’t be externalized for ever, even at the expense of energy security.

      The US has run out of easy, low-hanging petroleum “fruit”, domestically. The rest of the world is doing the same. We’re currently counteracting the free market in the name of energy security, but again, that’s not going to happen forever.

      Again, that oil hasn’t gotten much more expensive despite the cost of extraction going up is the result of interventionism. It’s just economic interventionism that flies under the radar of the kind of people who typically decry interventionism

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      golden2husky: Like it or not, there are significant costs associated with burning fossil fuels. These costs are not part of the price at the pump.

      We pay lots of money for emissions control devices on everything from cars to power plants. Even then, it is worth noting that oil is a very clean-burning fuel compared to coal or wood. The idea that we aren’t paying anything to mitigate the side-effects of fossil fuel use is a myth. The people who believe this have apparently been in a coma for the past 40 years.

      Or maybe all of those proposed regulations I’ve seen cross my desk from both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were really just a dream, like the entire second Bob Newhart Show. (Funny, I never wake up next to Suzanne Pleshette!)

      If you want to learn about deadly pollution, come to Pennsylvania and I’ll take you to the town of Donora, where several people literally dropped dead in the late 1940s from a stagnant smog formed from vehicular and industrial emissions. Last time I checked, no one in Donora or anywhere else in Pennsylvania has been keeling over from breathing the air.

      Pittsburgh at that time often turned on the street lamps DURING THE DAY because the sky was so choked with emissions from vehicles, houses and office buildings heated by coal, and steel mills. Today Pittsburgh boasts about the beautiful views from Mt. Washington, and the city is actually a very pleasant place to live.

      Vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel are very clean compared to horses, which is the proper frame of reference, not the utopian dreamlands conjured up by the environmental community to somehow shame us. Horses emit their own form of pollution that fouled the air and water, and attracted disease-carrying flies. In 1900, it was said that you could smell New York City before you could see it.

      The simple fact is that the poorest resident of any American city in 2010 lives in a healthier, cleaner environment than the richest person did in 1920 or even 1950.

      The air in the United States is much cleaner than it has been in the past 50 years, and will continue to get cleaner, as more businesses curb energy use (to save money – the most powerful motivator) and dirtier cars are cycled out of the vehicle fleet and replaced with cleaner ones.

      Our environment is remarkably clean, and will continue to get cleaner, because people and businesses will be spending lots of time, money and effort to make them so. Environmentalists deserve credit for bringing these problems to light, and proposing solutions, but they seem so intent on spreading gloom-and-doom.

      Probably because dragging out the bogeyman du jour keeps the fund-raising dollars flowing to their coffers.

      golden2husky: Even if you choose to bury your head in the sand regarding climate change, how about “run of the mill” pollution?

      The people who are burying their heads in the sand regarding climate change are those who believe it has been proven, and ignore all evidence to the contrary.

      Regarding “run of the mill” pollution – pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act have been declining dramatically for years. The air in this country is now much cleaner now than it was in 1960. (Lead and carbon monoxide, for example, have virtually been eliminated as serious pollutants.)

      New cars emit very little pollution – a 2010 Explorer emits fewer pollutants running than a 1969 Ford Galaxie emits with the engine turned off (from escaping gasoline vapors).

      The simple fact is that new cars are remarkably clean. Most vehicular pollution is emitted by a small number (about 5-10 percent) of older, out-of-tune clunkers.

      golden2husky: How about the Gulf of Mexico?

      A problem that will be addressed. Do we stop flying because a plane crashes? No, we find the source of the problem, address it, make sure it doesn’t happen again, and keep flying.

      golden2husky: Asthma from diesel particulates?

      Considering that the incidence of asthma has been increasing, and diesel particulates have been decreasing, I’d suggest that we look for other solutions. (And I say this as an asthma sufferer.) The most intriguing research suggests that too little exposure to dirt and animal fur may prevent the immune system from developing proper responses to foreign substances. (Although no one is suggesting that children suck on the exhaust pipe of a diesel-powered vehicle to prevent asthma.)

      I have no problem with the federal government mandating a reduction in particulate pollution from diesel-powered vehicles – but we are alreay doing just that. Again, the idea that we are doing nothing to address this, and that fuel users are getting some sort of free ride, and that the resulting pollution is therefore getting worse, is a myth.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      “There is as much oil now as then.”

      Then why the hell was BP drilling at depth?

      Oh, that’s right, environmentalists MADE them do it, if I’m to believe the petrol-subsidized movement-conservative memo du jour.

      Look, I’m allergic to shrimp, and stopped going to Panama City when I became an adult several decades ago, but…

      This statement you made is in line for a rather course reality check.

      What is the price of a maimed soldier?

      What is the price of a dead soldier?

      What is the price paid by said soldier’s family?

      What is the price of an entire way of life?

      I would be more fascinated and delighted by the guilty conscience of movement conservatism, if it’s results didn’t entail the very real possibility of a post-apochalyptic scenario.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I guess those regulations that discouraged companies from drilling too close to the shore and made them engage in riskier drilling are just a dream, too…or made up by the petro-auto-Halliburton-Bigfoot-whatever lobby that is supposed to serve as a distraction from inconvenient facts.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @cackalacka: The notion that the US wages war for oil is a myth, but it is an easy, baseless claim to make.

      Only about 12% of US oil consumption is Persian Gulf based. [I\'d like to see us use none of it.] You can’t connect the dots between ‘cheap oil’ and US wars; in fact, the opposite is true. The point is, we don’t even need the oil that comes from the areas the US is fighting in.

      “Why was BP drilling at depth?”
      Because nobody wants them any closer. Why else would BP spend the money to do it the hard way?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @psarhjinian:
      US customers are paying less for gasoline today than they did in 1918: http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/images/charts/Oil/Gasoline_inflation_chart.htm

      If oil was so scarce, you’d think the greedy oil companies would have passed the expense on to consumers, or take a hit in profits. Neither is happening.

      And if/when scarcity comes, there will be commensurate reductions in consumption, which will reduce prices once again.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Since some are asserting that our presence in the land between two rivers has absolutely nothing to do with oil; please educate me as to how this myth is easily disproven.

      Here, I’ve got graphs, too:

      http://www.realclearpolitics.com/images/wysiwyg_images/US_Oil_Production_and_Imports_1920_to_2005.png

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      You’ve both got graphs. The difference is that gslippy’s actually bolsters his argument.

      Your graph shows that we import lots of oil. Doesn’t show where we import it from, or prove incorrect that we only get 12 percent of our oil from the Middle East. Lots of countries besides Iraq export oil – Canada and Mexico among them.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      His point being that the notion of involvement in the middle east is primarily due to mineral resources is a myth?

      So, surely our footing on said resources would not necessitate the import of oil?

      Look, I’ll raise you another chart:

      http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html

      Granted #1’s Canada, lets see who else is on that list.

      2. Saudis. Charming, lovely people.
      4. Venezuela. I guess in your mind I’m cool with Chavez because I’m liberal.
      5. Nigeria. Again, charming place filled with nice people.
      7. Iraq. No, no reason to send our nation’s finest. JUST A HALF A MILLION BARRELS A DAY.
      10. Russia. Bush looked into Putin’s soul, so I guess we’re cool, right?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Another chart that fails to prove we went to war in Iraq over oil, which was the original contention.

      Incidentally, last time I checked, we were not at war with Canada, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria or Mexico.

      We import lots of oil. I don’t see anyone here denying that fact, including myself and gslippy. Some of those countries that serve as sources of oil are run by less-than-savory characters, but, again, I don’t see anyone here denying that fact.

      Again, your original contention was that we went to war in Iraq over oil. (If you had limited this to the first Gulf War, you would be on more solid ground.)

      And numerous posts, and two charts later, that still has not been proven.

  • avatar
    carguy

    akatsuki +1 – This is economic nonsense as any new technology is expensive before it benefits from the economies of scale. Just look at electric windows, car stereos, ABS, ESC, airbags etc. Maybe whats wrong with this picture is not the science part but the economics.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    This study’s dollar figures give off the same odor I used to detect whenever carmakers were required to add saftey or anti-pollution devices to vehicles, namely that they would add thousands and thousands in additional costs. (This was even trotted out for seatbelts.) Experience has shown that these estimates were usually wildly overstated and served primarily as scare tactics. Sfdennis1 stated it well. Economies of scale greatly minimize costs, and benefits are often much more substantial than those opposed are inclined to concede.

  • avatar
    ctaney

    Who is BP’s biggest shareholder: JPMorgan.

    Sorry, but the largest institutional holder of BP stock is Wellington Management with 1.11% of BP’s outstanding stock. Bank of America is the largest bank holder with 0.43%. JP Morgan Chase is not even in the top ten institutional holders.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I find it exceeding difficult to believe that a diesel costs on average $5900 more than a comparable spark-ignition engine. Compare a VW TDI vs. the VW 1.8T for example. Maybe a super-duty truck diesel costs $5900 more than ye olde small-block Chevy V8…

    But really, what we need to boost efficiency in the US is to simply get out of the ridiculous mindset that an average family sedan needs 200+ hp and a sub 7 second 0-60 time.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    If only the greedy automakers would put every one of those technologies into a single platform. Then the vehicle wouldn’t take any gas and would actually give out energy as it’s driven.

    See? Everyone CAN win.

    But the greedy oil companies would never allow THAT to happen. No sir!

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Was it greedy BP or greedy Haliburton that greedily bought up and sealed the patents for the 100mpg carburetor back in the 1970s?
    Those carburetors would have saved a lot of fuel had it not been for all those greedy guys.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      +1 and don’t forget the greedy Republican politicians who received kickbacks for enabling it to happen.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Or the glibertarians who are complicit in a self-destructive lifestyle.

      Remind us again who the previous VP worked for again, and who refused to sell his stock holdings… what was it again this company does again? Why are they in the news?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      While cackalacka is doing his research, he might also find time to discover just how much in donations BP gave to the current occupant of the Oval Office. Hint – it’s a lot of money.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Incidentally, further research will reveal that today’s date is June 9, 2010. This must be news to cackalacka, as he apparently still believes that George W. Bush is president, and Dick Cheney is vice president.

      Here’s a little refresher course on recent U.S. history – the last presidential election was held in November 2008, and Barack Obama won. He was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Which means that neither Bush nor Cheney has been in the White House since that time, given that, as of today, we are well over one year into the Obama Administration.

      Which means that since that date, regulation of offshore drilling has been the responsibility of the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration could have ordered BP to shut down the rig – highly unlikely, especially in view of those donations. In fact, I seem to recall a big announcement from President Obama before this disaster allowing more offshore drilling for oil.

      Let me guess – Bush, Cheney and Palin made him do it, even though not one of them is part of his administration, and they are not in a position to force him to do anything.

      But, hey, they do serve as a nice distraction from the facts.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @geeber:
      I’ll help out: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/36783.html

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Which would explain why I excused Obama’s energy policies. Y’all certainly served me….

      Oh wait, that’s right. I did no such thing.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Oh, and while we’re still on the subject of you arguing claims I did not make, geeber, I was alluding to Halliburton, not BP.

      You know, the guys that continued to pay our former VP after he assumed office? You know, the ones that helped contribute to the largest environmental catastrophe to date?

      But please, feel free to debate points I’m not making.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      You attempted to blame Dick Cheney, who is no longer serving as the vice president, and is thus not responsible for the regulation of offshore drilling (which is what really matters here). That is the job of the federal government, which, since January 20, 2009, has been under the control of the Obama Administration.

      So, you did do such a thing, but you are either being disingenuous, or you are stuck in a time warp and believe that it is still 2007.

      Whether you were referring to BP or Halliburton is irrelevant, as it doesn’t change the fact that regulation of offshore drilling is the responsibility of the federal government (i.e., the Obama Administration) and that BP has been a generous donor to Obama and the Congressional Democrats. You would surely be trumpeting a similar fact pattern from the rooftops if this had happened during the Bush Administration and BP had given lots of money to the Republicans in the White House and Congress.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      The Earth did not stop moving on January 20th, 2009.

      Yes, Obama’s energy policies are culpable, namely the ones where he attempted to emulate Republican policies (namely, his proposal to open up more coastline for drilling.)

      Congratulations, you have won the part of the debate that we happen to be somewhat in agreement, namely the one that I did not entertain.

      On the same token, you seem to forget that our previous administration was comprised of oil men. Folks who have been paying attention hold the previous administration culpable for the dismantling of the regulatory framework (EPA, FDA, MMS, etc.)

      Or are we going to argue that the Earth DID stop moving on January 20th, 2009?

  • avatar
    don1967

    Interesting data, particularly about hybrid technology. I note, however, that the stated mandate of the NAS is to report on “any subject of science or art whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government”.

    http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ABOUT_main_page

    Science? Art? Government sponsors? Yeesh. I haven’t seen such potential for spin-doctoring since NASA faked Elvis’ death.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    I love that comment,

    “…some of these technologies will remain perennially 10 to 15 years out beyond a moving reference.”

    Well, you know, GM said that about hybrid tech in the 1980s. I was at the car shows as a kid, they were talking about it all the time but they never brought anything to market… Until Toyota just up and DID IT, sunk the development costs, and made it work. Now, which automaker sank and which swam? Not the one that followed the cost-benefit analysis, possibly the most lying and useless tool ever invented by man.

    During the Vietnam war, the “whiz kids” did CBAs of dropping bombs on Vietnamese cities, towns and roads… I’m sure BP had more than one CBA on deepwater drilling… Not to mention the CBA behind the Exxon Valdez being a single-hull design…

    I hate to say it, but the older I get and the more I learn the more I’m convinced most economic ideas are myths and fantasies, “logical” but not reflecting the real world. They are like the Ptolemaic geocentric idea of the solar system, elegant and seemingly correct but fundamentally at odds with the actual nature of the universe.

    sfdennis1 is right, the basic issue is that the true cost of most of these things is fundamentally, and usually willfully, misunderstood. Business treats the environment like it’s free and worthless, when it’s actually priceless and irreplaceable.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Good thing I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to purchase any of these types of vehicles. I even actively contact my elected officials soley to keep from being strong armed into having my options limited to these types of vehicles.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    It may be a valid point that the market price of oil does not capture all the externalities, putting new technologies at an artificial disadvantage. The trick is to develop an economic mechanism that accurately and honestly prices the externalities and does not degenerate into an arbitrary blunt instrument to grab more tax revenue for politicians. An accurate price for oil is preferable to CAFE micromanaging or the corporate welfare of public R&D funding.

  • avatar
    mythicalprogrammer

    Shrug, next car is going to be a Honda Hybrid Fit (coming late 2010). With my family record we’re probably going to keep it forever ^_^.

  • avatar
    niky

    Actually, the hybrid cost for the Prius is around $6K. A similarly equipped Civic or Corolla (sure, the Rolla is smaller now that the Prius has been facelifted, but the Civic is just as big inside) with the same sized engine costs that much less.

    The diesel mark-up didn’t make sense to me, until someone pointed out that was for the V8. From my experience with low-priced econocar diesels, the mark-up is usually around $3K-$4K.

    Gulf of Mexico? Yup, we’re going to cure that by buying hybrids that cost more to manufacture and use marginally less dino-juice… instead of doing the socially responsible thing and carpooling or commuting via public transport.

    Some technologies will always be beyond the hump of affordability. Toyota pushed hybrids forward by absorbing the cost of development and selling at a massive discount. one which governments compounded by adding a hybrid tax break to each one sold. And even now, a decade after, hybrids are still much more expensive than regular gasoline cars.

    HCCI shows promise, but we’ll have to wait for the cost of the associated electronics to come down. The piezo-sensors used to control the rate of knock are incredibly expensive.

    Anything with piezo-this-and-that in the package will cost a lot. Just look at those modern diesels. Incredibly expensive fuel systems, incredibly sensitive to particulate and water contamination, with injector replacements costing over $500… a piece. Eight pieces for a diesel V8… $4k… and that’s not including the high pressure pump, rail and filter..it’s easy to see where the $5.9K goes…

    Of course, we could always downsize engines… that’s a free mod. The cars will be slower, but they’ll consume less in traffic… unless people go around whizzing to redline everywhere to make up for the lost performance.

    • 0 avatar
      Adamatari

      By the logic that “a hybrid costs $6k more because it costs $6k more than a car with the same size engine and no hybrid tech”, a car with NO engine would be much cheaper than a car with an engine. And, in fact, it is. You just can’t use it for much.

      The hybrid system is part of the powertrain. The fuel economy, performance, and cost should be compared to other cars in the same class with similar options. The prius II trim has 6 inches more rear legroom and 2 inches more rear headroom and hip room than the stripper civic DX, and comes standard with AC and a CD player while the civic does not. Not to mention the fuel economy. Yes, it’s 6k more, but it’s quite a bit for 6k.

      As for the Gulf of Mexico issue, what you suggest is good, but ultimately we need to get off oil if we want to end our need to drill for it in deep water. Carpooling and public transport reduce our need for oil, but with the entire economy of the world running on oil we’ll STILL end up tapping into it in order to afford the carpool or fuel the bus. Structural change is needed.

      And just like I said, it’s ten years out until somebody does it. Toyota made it and made it a success. The conditions under which that occurred are reality. The truth is that it’s a crapshoot – a CBA makes assumptions based on current conditions. Pour money and effort into something, and you may end up being rewarded handsomely, or you may end up losing your shirt. The problem is that you don’t, and can’t, know what will develop beforehand. The Prius made Toyota a lot of money and a lot of reputation. GM put money into developing exciting cars like the Solstice/Sky, G8, and GTO (well, they spent money importing and rebadging the G8 and GTO). As great and exciting as these cars are, GM lost their shirt.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      The Prius II trim? You mean there’s a long-wheelbase Prius now? :p. The third generation 1.8 liter Prius has exactly 2 more inches of legroom than the current Honda Civic and nearly the same headroom (slightly less in front) and shoulder room (except in front, where it gets 3 extra inches… which it takes out of the hips with that gimungous center console). Maybe you’re thinking of the 2-door Civic?

      Obviously… a car with a smaller engine is cheaper. But we have to compare apples to apples, and the Civic’s drivetrain uses the same size of engine and gives the same acceleration. We’re simply looking at how much that extra you pay for the drivetrain translates into fuel savings.

      Granted, there’s squidge room in the options… but a fully loaded Prius still costs a shedload more than a fully loaded Civic.

      As long as we exclude tax discounts.

      The study seems a straight comparison of like-engine to like-engine. As pointed out… you could simply shrink the engine and see gains in economy for no outlay at all… but that isn’t the point… the point is economy improvement while preserving the same performance profile as the current vehicle.

      What it doesn’t illustrate is how each cost compares to the savings in monetary terms. In other words… translate that into an ROI. Because from that viewpoint, hybrids DO work, given you meet the specific usage conditions required.

  • avatar
    TomH

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, where’s the regulatory compliance dimension in the equation? Most of the advanced technologies in the table also contribute to the automakers’ environmental compliance strategies.

    • 0 avatar

      And that is where the ‘true cost’ of gasoline comes into play. The producers and distributors must cover for the risks of well, tanker, and transport spills. They must pay the costs of meeting the various pollution regulations. Those costs are passed on to consumers.

      Gas or guzzler taxes are blatant schemes to transfer cash directly to general funds. Strengthen pollution and mileage requirements. Force producers to cover the costs of development, maintenance, and deployment of an effective cleanup task force. Gas prices will go up, but only to the extent that gasoline is expensive to use and not to the extent that the latest parliament/congress needs to pay for their spending sprees.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Don’t one technology is better than another until the three are three or less cylinders:

    http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.aspx?AR=250346

    I love getting 69-71 mpg on my 2-cylinder Suzuki SV650 which has enough power to be fun and get out of the way of distracted drivers in 300 hp FWD sedans.

  • avatar
    Ralph Deeds

    The best way to improve non-commercial motor vehicle fuel economy would be to apply a weight tax. This would be a simple way to provide a disincentive for people to drive SUVs and heavy cars, and it would be more politically possible than.

    http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Reduce-CO2-Emissions-from-Non-commercial-Motor-Vehicles


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